Recent Book Reviews
Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, published a review of Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal’s Triumph in the Inner City in City Journal, which is published by the Manhattan Institute. The review is titled: “Tough Love: How Ben Chavis works education wonders”. Here are some excerpts:
“Once, as a young boy, Ben Chavis wandered unwittingly onto the grounds of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with some friends. In short order, a man approached them and shouted: ‘You darkies get out of here! You’re trespassing!’ For the past decade, Chavis has been preparing the next generation of poor minority kids to be welcomed through the front gates of top colleges around the country. He’s succeeding beyond everyone’s expectations, except his own.
“When Chavis took over the American Indian Public Charter School in 2000, it was the worst-performing middle school in Oakland. Within seven years, it was the fourth-highest ranking middle school in the entire state of California. The other top-scoring schools are overwhelmingly wealthy and white; Chavis’s former students at AIPCS (he recently retired as principal) are low-income and mostly black, Hispanic, or American Indian.
“Crazy Like a Fox is the story of their academic ascent, and it’s unlike any other book of its kind because Ben Chavis himself is one-of-a-kind—passionate, intense, and brutally honest. Like a character in a high-concept Hollywood film, he unabashedly tells whomever he’s speaking with exactly what’s on his mind. And his thoughts often tend toward the controversial. The reactions he inspires range from shock and outrage to admiration and awe.
“All of this comes through in his book, in which Chavis unflinchingly skewers those he faults for ruining the educational hopes of generations of minority kids. Though a Democrat, he rails against ‘far-to-the-left liberals who in my opinion are worse than the Ku Klux Klan. . . . They love for minorities to have the illusion that we can make choices, but when families are given the chance to choose a public charter school, like AIPCS, these ‘saviors’ always find a way to interfere.’
“It goes without saying that much of the education establishment finds Chavis infuriating. Yet several attempts to remove him ultimately failed. His incontrovertible success as a principal acted like professional body armor. And while Chavis is keen to document his school’s success based on statewide tests, the book has a conversational feel, interleaving the formative experiences of his youth with the exposition of his school’s methods, trials, and triumphs.”
The full review can be found here:
Coulson blogs at Cato-at-Liberty.org if you’d like to read more of his work.
At Youthworker’s website, I found this review, which was short and well put in my opinion:
“In the mold of such memorable films as Stand and Deliver and Freedom Writers, the cast of characters in Crazy Like a Fox live in the inner city, are part of an ethnic minority and are poor; but so is their hero. Dr. Chavis shares in his own words the journey that inspired Gov. Schwarzenegger to call his school an ‘education miracle.’ Not only in the villages of Africa, but also on the streets of Oakland, one of the greatest needs on our planet right now is primary education that gives underprivileged children a chance for a healthy and accomplished adulthood. Chavis is crazy; and he’s tough, too. This memoir invites you to walk the path of triumph that overcomes all odds.